Since it's St. Patrick's Day today, I thought I'd re-post a slightly modified post about at Michael Haykin's great book Patrick of Ireland.
Michael Haykin calls his book Patrick of Ireland a "book-length essay," and that really is what it is. It won't take you long to read this book, but it is a great introduction to the life of Patrick.
It is difficult to write about Patrick because of lack of source material. Haykin focuses on what can be discerned from Patrick's two surviving writings, the Confession and the Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus. The Confession is available online for free, and an interested person could start there to hear about Patrick from his own lips.
Haykin recounts the conversion of Patrick and the subsequent impact it had on his own life and the life of Ireland. We learn that Patrick was a committed Trinitarian, that he was a man of God's Word, a man of prayer, and a man reliant on the Spirit of God. Much of the Confession is full of Scriptural references. Haykin speculates that while Patrick was likely not a well-read man, his education having been interrupted when he was taken as a slave; but he was extremely well-versed in Scripture. This was at a time before the Latin Vulgate, but he did have the Old Latin manuscripts to look at, and he took advantage of them.
Haykin highlights Patrick's gratitude at his conversion. It was what compelled him to return to Ireland with the gospel after he had successfully returned to Britain:
I cannot be silent -- nor, indeed, is it expedient -- about the great benefits and the great grace which the Lord has designed to bestow on me 'in the land of my captivity'; for this is what we can give back to God after having been chastened and having come to know him, to exalt and praise his wonders before every nation that is under the whole heaven.
Patrick was, above all, a man of mission, and this was not a typical in the 5th Century Roman church. Patrick took seriously that call to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. He believed that Ireland was the end of the world. And why would he not? On the western coast of Ireland, looking out into the Atlantic, it would have been an easy to conclusion to draw. He was simply obeying what Scripture told him.
Haykin comments on Patrick's evangelistic zeal:
His zeal for missions and the salvation of the lost is not only inspiring, but deeply convicting. Also, he is into missions for all of the right reasons: the concern for their salvation; the duty he owes to God's call on his own life; and the obedience of the Scriptural mandate to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.
If you know little about Patrick, but want to learn, this is the volume to begin with. It's a quick read, but it reveals the man that was Patrick, avoiding the extrapolated versions of him. Haykin includes a good selection of other volumes for those interested in digging deeper. I was pleased to see that Who Was St. Patrick? by A.E. Thompson is on the list. That is my favourite biography of Patrick.